By speaking to thousands of hoteliers every day we're always uncovering new issues in the travel industry. There's a new one in town: the new wave of third party sites. On the face of things they look just like a hotel's website but behind the scenes it is actually being run by an online travel agency. They often advertise rooms and rates that simply don't exist, leading to ruined trips and a lot more travel booking anxiety.
No surprise then that ABC news ran an article last week: What to Watch Out for When Booking Hotel Rooms Online, highlighting the plight of people who have fallen victim to the new sites. The American Hotel & Lodging Association reports an increase in travellers believing they've booked directly only to realise upon arrival that the hotel doesn't have the reservation in the system. Worryingly their estimates show up to 2.5 million bookings may be erroneous and so how can you do your homework to make sure the site you're on is the hotel's own?
1. Check the word before the ".com"
It doesn't have to be .com. It could be .net or .co.uk but one piece of advice for knowing what's spam and what isn't is checking the hotel's brand name comes before the .com. If it's www.hilton.com, www.starwoodhotels.com or www.melia.com then you know you're going direct.
2. Look out for Price Check
We only work directly with hotels. Therefore if a site shows our Price Check widget you can guarantee it is a hotel's direct site.
3. Double check your booking confirmation
Has your booking confirmation come directly from the hotel? Check the 'From' e-mail address as well as any signatures that might imply a third party is involved. If in doubt, don't call the number on the e-mail. Instead, look up the hotel's direct number online and call to check that front desk has your reservation.
We'll be watching how this unfolds and whether new regulation comes into place to stop mirroring sites. It's clear, however, that when booking direct it pays to do some extra homework to steer clear of the new third parties in town.